& Police Department Conflict Over Civilian Review & Community
February 17, 2001
There appears to be an ongoing and somewhat serious difference of opinion between the Police Commission and the Richmond Police Department about the role and authority of the Police Commission with respect to civilian review and community policing. In the TOM BUTT E-FORUM of January 15, 2001, I reported on a dispute between the RPOA and the Police Commission related to excessive force complaints involving dogs.
In the ongoing debate, the Police Commission has recently pointed out that the Peace Officers Bill of Rights (POBAR), California Government Code Section 3300 - 3310 (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=2657312507+0+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve) provides for State reimbursement of investigative costs of police civilian review boards. On January 17, 2001,The Richmond Police Commission filed for and expects to receive $167,435 for investigative costs dating back to 1994-95.
The Police Commission maintains that because its costs can be passed through to the State, it is more cost effective to the City than Police Department Internal Affairs investigations. According to a report from the Police Commission, Internal Affairs tied up two sergeants and one lieutenants in calendar year 2000 investigating 19 complaints and reviewing 27 findings of complaint investigated outside Internal affairs by unit supervisors. The entire cost of these internal investigations had to come from the Richmond General Fund.
The Police Commission argues that enlarging the jurisdiction of the Commission to have original jurisdiction over all citizen complaints, regardless of category, would free up two Internal Affairs sergeants to fight crime on the streets and save the City the entire cost of the investigation through State reimbursements.
At its February 12, 2001, meeting, the police Commission excoriated the Police Department for the "sarcastic, arrogant, challenging, abusive and dehumanizing" manner in which one Internal Affairs officer responds to citizens seeking to file a complaint. This officer, says the Commission, "strips away any dignity the complainant may have had prior to walking into the Lobby of the Hall of Justice. Moreover, he is biased and conclusionary at the outset of the investigative process by telling complainants that they 'don't have a complaint."
In an unrelated action, The Police Commission communicated to Chief Samuels their criticism of his approach to community policing. In a memo dated February 13, 2001, Thomas Carr, Chair, and Bob Sutcliffe, Vice-Chair of the Police Commission wrote:
...we believe that you have squandered a valuable opportunity in community relations by reducing the Community Policing Program from its previous twenty-four person patrol staff to its present seven person patrol staff. Such a reduction is incredulous in this era when citizens want to see more officers on the street and they want to know who the officers are that they see.
There are those in law enforcement, and with substantial certainty in the Richmond police Department, who espouse the view that community policing is not real police work but instead a distasteful chore of public relations. This sector believes in the traditional policing model of crime-fighting with minimal contact with the general public.
Finally, the Police Commission thanked and applauded Chief Samuels for incorporating a notice of citizens' right to appeal in the Police Department complaint form and agreeing to post a notice of the civilian complaint process in the Hall of Justice Lobby.